Hundreds of nurses and doctors have come to work in Red Lake over the last 92 years. Red Cross doctors and nurses arrived with the gold rush in 1926. Dr. Thomas Goodison was Red Lake’s first long-serving doctor, working in Red Lake from 1926-1942. Dr. Goodison, a native of Brockville, Ontario, graduated from Queen's University medical school in early 1926 and was only 23 when he arrived in Red Lake in the winter of that same year. Like those before him, Dr. Goodison used the old Dome Mine assay office as his ‘hospital’ and doctor’s office. The small building only had room for two patients, so Dr. Goodison mostly made house calls. Dr. Goodison also served as the Red Lake area’s postmaster and Justice of the Peace.
A hospital was established on McKenzie Island in the 1930’s to attend to the Island’s injured miners. McKenzie Island’s first doctor, Dr. Charles Galway arrived in 1934. Located on the McKenzie Red Lake Gold Mines property, the McKenzie Island hospital had individual female and male wards, an operating room, doctor’s apartment and office as well as a kitchen. The doctors and nurses not only cared for the Island's residents but also the area’s expectant mothers. Between 1943 and 1949, the McKenzie Island hospital was the only medical facility in the Red Lake area with maternity services. Before this expecting mothers would travel to Kenora, Winnipeg or Thunder Bay for their births. The exception to this was in the spring of 1945, when a temporary birthing centre was established in Madsen because McKenzie Island was unreachable during breakup.
Many of the mines employed doctors, and Madsen Red Lake Gold Mines even had its own small hospital. Doctors like Dr. Smith and later Dr. McCammon treated minor injuries and offered a general practice for the well being of Madsen. The small hospital was tested on July 1, 1945, when the Red Lake Hotel fire rocked the area. Victims of the fire were transported to Madsen as Dr. McCammon was the only doctor in the area at the time of the fire.
After the Red Lake Hotel fire, Red Lake created two centralized hospitals - the Red Lake Red Cross Memorial Hospital (RLRCMH) in Red Lake and the Margaret Cochenour Hospital (MCH) in Cochenour. The RLRCMH opened in October 1946 in an old Howey Gold Mine bunkhouse, located where the IGA is today. The new hospital had 22 beds and was staffed by two doctors (Dr. Daniel, McKenzie Island and Dr. McCammon, Madsen), three nurses and a matron (head nurse). The MCH opened in 1949 becoming the medical centre for McKenzie Island, Cochenour, Balmertown and McMarmac. The hospital sported ten beds, major and minor operating rooms and X-ray services. With the addition of the new hospital in Cochenour, the hospital on McKenzie Island closed.
In the early 1970’s, the Municipality of Red Lake decided that a regional hospital was needed. The hospital would serve not only the Red Lake communities but the surrounding area as well. The RLRCMH and the MCH merged to form the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital. Opening in December 1973, the hospital had 44 beds, an emergency room, operating rooms and an onsite laboratory. Dr. Gloster, Dr. Vaughn and Dr. Miller-Williams were the senior doctors when the hospital opened. The old MCH building was repurposed into the Owen J. Matthews Manor, a home of the aged. Patients from the Manor were moved to newly built Northwood Lodge Home for the Aged in 1999.
Before 1980, Red Lake, Cochenour and Balmertown had doctor’s offices or small clinics for non-emergent appointments. The doctors would share the responsibility of staffing the clinics and rotate between the different locations. In July 1980, the Red Lake District Medical Centre (presently the Guardian Pharmacy) was created, centralizing the district’s medical services. The Goldcorp Red Lake Regional Medical Clinic opened in 2015.
While the Red Lake mines are no longer responsible for the region’s health care, they have continued to support medical advancements in the community. Goldcorp, former Goldcorp CEO Robert McEwen and the Cochenour family trusts have all support the building and upgrading of Red Lake’s medical facilities in the past.
From the File Room...